Imagine cleaning a room that is only moderately out of order, and while cleaning it you must take down all the objects from the cupboards and cabinets, making it temporarily messy. From that mess will emerge a more organized and effective room. This situation is directly similar to our restructuring of the special interest community.

Change is inevitable for life on campus, and UR does not deviate from that rule. Years of tradition had integrated the special interest housing groups within each class, as well as providing each group with incoming freshman members.

Special Interest Housing had not changed much since its inception within the campus. Each group stuck to itself and largely maintained the same goals and functions as they had when they were founded. The face of special interest housing had become a well known and understood entity at UR.

Groups had become reliant upon these long standing traditions. For this reason, when the residential structure changed, we were inevitably shaken. The course of events leading up to the implementation of freshman housing rippled through the special interest communities on campus, transforming the face of these groups forever.

The present stance of the special interest community is in a state of transformation. Old traditions have been cast aside and new approaches are being attempted. Before the freshman housing plan, each group was comfortable with their positions, but now we are thrown into a new world.

Living without freshmen this year, each group was confronted with a reduction in membership. The immediate concern with this issue was about the change in participation and energy that usually accompanies freshman involvement.

The silver lining in what seemed at first to be a cloud over special interest housing was that we crossed barriers and built bridges.

The Subcommittee on Special Interest Housing and Greek Affairs strongly suggested an umbrella organization comprised of all the special interest groups. The community had been stunned by the new housing policies, and the committee was envisioned as a way to coordinate and support their efforts to cope.

This ultimately led to representatives from each group forming the Special Interest Housing Council. Our intent is to best use the opportunities that freshman housing has presented to us.

Solutions to our concerns are the main focus of the Special Interest Housing Council. Instead of being designated as problems, I prefer to say we have a renewed lifestyle to which we must now become accustomed. One important solution we will work for is to insure that new blood is pumped into the veins of this community ? we will shift toward membership recruiting as this year comes to a close.

Monday, in Wilson Commons, the collaborative effort of the council is presenting the Special Interest Housing Fair. Its central theme, Branch Out, works as a two way message, showing our commitment to reaching the campus community and encouraging freshmen to reach other parts of life here at UR.

Students will be able to learn about each group and the council, as well as taking advantage of membership opportunities as the annual lodging concerns enter the mind of the masses.

Special interest housing has not become a homogenous mixture of residential living, however. Keeping separate identities is a very important aspect of each group, and is highly encouraged by the Special Interest Housing Council. This knowledge, as well as the network of the Special Interest Housing Council, has enabled groups to easily contact one another when planning events or needing support.

Together, each group is dealing with this issue, and in turn our communities are growing closer together. Every part of this council, as well as members within each group, makes contributions. Working together at this level is unprecedented on this campus, and I am proud to see it finally happening.

In the future, the council will become an avenue for the special interest groups to connect with each other, the campus community and the administration. During this transformation year we have been changed so dramatically that we aren’t as firmly grounded as in previous years, yet this metamorphosis will create a community for the new era on campus.

Judging by old standards of success, the community at present does not meet expectations, yet the situation has changed. The groups have taken incoming freshmen out of the formula, and are instead focusing on the real purpose of the groups. Soon they will welcome upcoming sophomores into this strongly focused core of students.

Dean of The College William Green once expressed a concern about special interest housing relying heavily on incoming freshmen, asking why we needed such a large influx of new members if the groups were actually devoted to their central intent.

He soon proved the need for each group to rethink their purpose. What then emerged was a smaller, yet very devoted special interest community, which will only grow stronger as next year rolls around.

Since the special interest groups can not accept incoming freshmen, we encourage students to enter special interest housing their sophomore year. While the freshman housing policy initially upset traditional special interest housing, after stumbling for a few steps, we have emerged as a stronger and more cohesive unit with a bright future.

Hale is a sophomore and can be reached at ehale@campustimes.org.



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